Professor offers tips to keep immune system strong while social distancing
As social distancing continues, the Department of Health and Human Performance is encouraging the UH community to continue to stay physically active at home.
“The main risk of staying inside right now is increases in sedentary time and physical inactivity,” assistant professor in the department Melissa Markofski said in an email. “However, we can minimize this risk by doing indoor workouts and taking breaks from sitting.”
She added there is a correlation between exercise and a stronger immune system than those who are not physically active.
Every time someone exercises, Markofksi said, cells are released from “storage pools” in the body, and when they stop, the cells return to the pools and can go to tissues like the lungs and survey the tissues for potential problems.
Despite how everyday life has changed because of the coronavirus pandemic, Markofski suggests aiming for any physical activity if 30 minutes of exercise is unattainable.
“The ACSM-AHA exercise recommendations are at least 30 minutes a day for at least five days per week,” Markofski said. “Or at least 20 minutes a day three days per week of vigorous exercise.”
Although she isn’t worried about Houstonians, Markofski said it’s important for everyone staying at home for extended periods to spend time outside.
“The other concern we have — which we usually don’t worry about in Houston — is a vitamin D deficiency,” Markofski said. “If someone is staying indoors for several months, they may not be getting enough sunshine to maintain vitamin D levels.”
Spending 15 minutes a day outside should supplement enough vitamin D, Markofski said, and a way to do this is go for a walk at less popular times of the day to ensure social distancing.
“I am a big supporter of getting outside for walks, but only if it is safe to do so,” Markofski said. “If it’s a busy area where it is difficult to maintain at least 6 feet (10 feet preferred) away from people.”
Along with exercise, Markofski recommends limiting artificial additives and unnecessary sugars to help your immune system.
“We generally recommend a diet with a variety of fruits and vegetables,” she said. “Variety can be easily defined as eating fruits and veggies of a range of colors.”
Markofski said there are times that exercise is not advised such as any illness that includes body aches and chills, rest is then suggested.
“These can be signs and symptoms of an infection that our immune system is fighting, and it needs to focus on the infection and not a response to exercise,” Markofski said.